Two years ago I was approached by an external recruiter who had read my blog posts. He asked if I had time to talk about his client, Navigating Cancer. I responded that I was not actively looking for new work, and in fact would be taking maternity leave in three months, but was interested in the opportunity and would be happy to talk given those caveats. We scheduled a phone call for later that week, and then he never called me. Never apologized or explained, UNTIL… exactly three months later, he contacted me again, with no mention of our previous correspondence. “I know you’re super busy at [former place of work],” he wrote, “but can we schedule a time to chat about a company you might be interested in, Navigating Cancer?”
The email arrived while I was in labor, and I can’t remember if I later responded that I was literally having a baby when he wrote oh and by the way, he stood me up last time, or if I only imagined doing so. It was memorable to me because his first email was so personal and diligent — he had tapped into several of my social media profiles, and commented on their content. When I told him about my upcoming maternity leave he even said “3 months! How exciting!” And then somehow he managed to blow all that goodwill by not calling me when he said he would, and contacting me again at the very worst possible time.
I’m taking a weekly class with Kal Academy, a refresher course on data structures and algorithms. I can’t say enough good things about Kal’s classes — they are small, personalized, affordable, positive learning environments. Very worthwhile if you are a woman in technology in the greater Seattle area. In addition to the data structures and algorithm classes, which are mandatory for anyone who wants to improve at technical whiteboard exams, she also offers classes in business intelligence and object-oriented programming (in Microsoft stack).
Our homework this week (and ongoing) is to video ourselves whiteboarding. This is intimidating and potentially embarrassing, so of course I am sharing it with the world. Behold the screen capture worth 1000 words:
Slow clap, YouTube. 👏 Watch it here:
And here’s the final code (after some refactoring):
I highly recommend going through this exercise if there is a technical interview in your future. It will improve your practice and give you confidence. This session lasted about 30 minutes but felt much longer. I had to re-do my code a few times, which felt more awkward than it looks. (Verdict: not terrible for a first attempt, but I’ll get better.)
Technical note: I used YouTube live on-air with Google Hangouts enabled. The directions are not very clear, but I was able to set my video to private (only those with link can view) and the recording worked fine and was instantly available on my YouTube channel. I did not attempt to do any screen sharing.
It’s a different experience to whiteboard without anyone giving you real-time feedback than with it. But, try it and tape it anyway.
Kal is collecting the videos and sharing with the class, so we’ll get to see a few other people’s approaches and solutions, which is always super useful. (Share yours in the comments if you try this!)
Need some sample whiteboard questions? Try not to think about them too long before you start the camera rolling, that’s cheating.
Hard to fathom that January is nearly over. What a ride it’s been already.
Earlier this month I had to take my laptop in to the Apple store because it started making vacuum cleaner noises. When I called them to get some additional information, this song above was the hold music. I thought it was sooooo clever. But then I called again a week later and the hold music had nothing to do with waiting, so maybe just a coincidence?
Nevertheless, I have a few irons in the fire at the moment and the waiting is exciting and terrifying, while simultaneously I am trying to continue to forge ahead in case nothing comes of it.
I’m really happy for her, and the more I thought about it, the more I land on: WHY AREN’T MORE ORGANIZATIONS DOING THIS??
I interviewed back in November for job that seemed like a *great fit*, working as a Rails developer (“engineer”) at the local office of an org that allows users to track which books they’ve read and want to read. The job description said “be less than a year out of school” so I applied despite my green-ness, had a great “cultural fit” convo, and then got whomped in the technical phone screen. Guess what: that job is still unfilled, or still hiring, it showed up again today in my job postings notification. In the three months since they talked with me, at least two things have happened: 1. I got better; 2. The technology changed. If they had just hired me in November for a three-month run, I could have gotten better *on their technology stack* and we would both know by now whether it was a good fit for a longer commitment or permanent hire.
Josh helped put this in perspective for me yesterday, talking about another potentially stressful interview process coming up. “It’s not whether your technical skills are good enough to fit on their team, it’s whether they have the training capacity to take you on.” He continued: “[Company X] has enough resources, they could potentially take any of the five of us in this room [including the cats] and train us to work with their software. Whether they choose to do so is reflective of their own priorities and not your abilities or capacity to learn.”
I’m not advocating for throwing your “Ace the Technical Interview” book out the window, but there’s something here worth considering, both for technical job seekers and those to seek to hire them. At a minimum, maybe it’s time to schedule those informational interviews you’ve been putting off!